Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Home Education Advisory Service
I would like to thank the Select Committee for
allowing me the opportunity to give evidence on the subject of
elective home education at the hearing on Wednesday 14 October
2009. At the end of the time allowed I noted that you were kind
enough to say that the Committee would be willing to consider
further dialogue on matters that we were unable to raise during
the hearing. Accordingly I am writing to ask the Committee to
consider three issues that could not be addressed fully at the
time. These are:
Comments on the additional evidence submitted
to the Select Committee by Mr Badman
The Badman monitoring proposals and the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
Directors of children's services: their
I do hope that there is still time for the Committee
to be able to consider this information. Unfortunately the pressure
of my work commitments has made it impossible for me to communicate
with you before now. I remain deeply committed to home education
and I continue to support home educators alongside my work for
Roman Fields Brokerage Service, a new project that has been set
up by Hertfordshire County Council's Children, Schools and Families
I mention this because the Roman Fields project
provides individual education packages for children of school
age who have behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. Undoubtedly
some of these children would have been among the small number
who cause concern to the authorities when they end up in home
education because there is literally nowhere else for them to
go. I believe that they are relevant to the Committee's present
inquiry and I would like to recommend the work of the Roman Fields
Brokerage Service to you.
As far as we know, the project is unique and
it could well provide a model for use in other areas; similar
projects might be of assistance to other local authorities as
a means of helping children about whom there are justified concerns.
Mr Badman's third round of data collection from
local authorities in September 2009 was designed in part
to support his earlier conclusion that the number of home educated
children known to children's social care in some local authorities
is disproportionately high relative to the size of the home education
population. The results of his enquiries have had a direct influence
on the review recommendations, so it is of considerable importance
that both the data itself and Mr Badman's analysis should be fair
and accurate. In giving evidence to the Committee Sir Paul Ennals
remarked (14 October, Q84) that the request for more research
should not be used to defer difficult decisions. I cannot emphasise
strongly enough that we are not asking for more research; we are
asking simply for an assurance that the information used to justify
the review's proposals should be both fair and accurate. We are
disturbed to find that the September data collection and its conclusions
fail both of these criteria.
It is a matter of grave concern to home educators
that Mr Badman's hastily-assembled September statistical exercise
contains some serious errors and parents are very troubled about
the fact that there does not appear to be any avenue by which
their concerns may be communicated to the Select Committee. Some
information from freedom of information (FOI) requests on the
September data collection has now been obtained by home educators
and Mr Badman's conclusions have been scrutinised by experts.
Although there are are as yet only a small number of responses
there are enough to cast grave doubt on the reliability of the
data in Mr Badman's September exercise. We would like to ask the
Committee to consider the following points:
The September data and its analysis: faults in
Mr Badman's methodology
a) Mr Badman is guilty of misusing statistical
terms in his information to the Select Committee dated 9 October
2009. He states in the results (paragraph 1) that local authorities
(LAs) responded voluntarily. This means that they were self-selecting
and were not, therefore, a "representative sample" of
all LAs in England as he states in paragraph 5. It is reasonable
to infer that the LAs which chose to respond would be more likely
to be those with greater concerns (or the ones with a greater
degree of institutional prejudice) than the ones which did not
respond. If this were the case the negative tendencies will have
been overstated. Data from all LAs would therefore be needed to
give a fair and balanced picture.
b) Mr Badman gives five reasons why the
LAs did not respond to specific questions (paragraph 5) but he
gives no figures for these. It would have been a simple matter
to have included the actual figures for each reason and this information
is necessary in order to put the findings into their proper context.
Home educators are wondering why Mr Badman has suppressed this
c) Mr Badman states (paragraph 5) that the
figures have been quality assured by a DCSF statistician. This
assurance gives no guarantee that the raw data itself is accurate,
and the information from LAs obtained via FOI requests has shown
already that it is faulty. Mr Badman has used unsound data in
order to lend weight to his earlier conclusions and this is completely
Mr Badman's results
Child Protection Plans (CPPs)
Mr Badman states (paragraph 7) that LAs were
asked for information about the number of CPPs relating to electively
home educated (EHE) children compared with the whole population
of children. His assertion that the number of EHE children with
a CPP is double that found in the whole population of children
was discussed in the Select Committee hearing on Monday 12 October.
This claim is mistaken as he has made an error in his calculations.
For an expert analysis please see the brief paper Observations
on Home Education Statistics (Appendix 1 at the end of
a) Table 2 in Annex 1 of Mr Badman's
findings shows how the LAs were asked to provide information about
the number of EHE children who were not receiving a suitable education.
The LAs were asked to state whether the figures they gave were
actual or estimated, but in section 10 of his findings they
are all presented as actual figures. It would be helpful to have
some idea how many figures were actual and how many were estimations.
b) Despite requests from HEAS Mr Badman
declined to investigate the problem of LAs acting illegally towards
home educating families. HEAS receives calls for help regularly
from families who have had very unsatisfactory encounters with
LA staff. It is likely that some of the small proportion of children
who are said to be receiving inadequate provision are not being
judged fairly. An examination of individual cases would be necessary
in order to ascertain the reliability of this data.
c) There is no legal definition of "full-time"
education with regard to EHE. LAs are making subjective judgements
and it follows that resulting data cannot be regarded as robust.
School Attendance Orders (SAOs)
a) Although 210 children in the 74 LAs
are deemed to be not receiving any education, Mr Badman's figures
show that only 73 SAOs were issued. He notes that there is
a relatively low usage of these but it begs the question as to
why some LAs are asking for greater powers when they are not using
the powers that they already have.
b) 26 SAOs were issued by one of the
18 LAs which reported issuing them in respect of EHE children.
It would be helpful to know whether or not this was the same LA
that had eight CPPs for EHE children; if so, this could indicate
either that this LA is particularly draconian or that it is in
an area which has significant social problems. It is unacceptable
that no attempt has been made to explain this statistical outlier
which accounts for one-third of the figures.
Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)
a) The fact that Mr Badman asks only about
EHE young people who are NEET further demonstrates that his investigation
is biased. He is not interested in achieving a balanced view of
b) Mr Badman asked the LAs for the figures
from the Connexions annual survey of Year 11 leavers which
relate to EHE young people. He referred to the NEETs data as "stark"
(12 October, Q37the uncorrected transcript reads "needs"
but the video archive confirms that it should read "NEETs")
but he seems to be unaware of the fact that the data on EHE leavers
is very patchy.
An internet search reveals that some local Connexions
websites state clearly that their data relates to mainstream schools
only. Some of them do not hold data for other settings and the
data that they can provide is not consistent across the country.
Information given to HEAS by many families over the years has
shown that few home educators make use of the services provided
by Connexions; as a result, Connexions has very little first-hand
knowledge of EHE young people. Further, we do not know whether
or not Connexions makes an accurate distinction between bona
fide home educators and young people who are out of school
for other reasons.
LAs themselves are the source of most of the
data for the Connexions survey and they do not have access to
information about all home educated leavers. Quite apart from
the fact that not all the EHE leavers are known to them, many
LAs do not seek information about all those who are known to them
in their final few months of compulsory education. One parent
comments: "When I heard about Mr Badman's call for supplementary
evidence I tried to update my LA with the destinations of my two
sons. Both left home education in 2008, one to go to college and
the other to work full-time. I was told that the LA does not deal
with young people when they reach 16 and my information was
refused. So my sons will be recorded as NEET when they are not
in this category; I suspect that many others will be in the same
c) These facts show that the evidence base
for the figures shown in Mr Badman's findings at Annex C is highly
suspect; further, the questionable information on which it is
based is from a mere 47 of a possible 150 LAs. 20 of
the 47 LAs who answered this question have replied to home
educators' FOI requests to date and their figures and comments
are shown in Table 1 (Appendix 2 below). The number
of responses is small because the FOI requests have been made
only very recently, but enough comments have been made to show
consistently that Mr Badman's question about NEETs cannot be answered
with any degree of accuracy.
d) Further, Mr Badman makes the error of
not comparing like with like. 13 of the 47 LAs who "were
able to provide information" have stated openly that the
figures are unknown or unreliable, but Mr Badman goes on to compare
this small set of inadequate data with the national figure. This
comparison is unacceptable and it has the effect of portraying
home education in the worst possible light.
Missing Children (Runaways)
a) Although "missing children (runaways)"
in this context has a precise definition which Mr Badman quotes
in his document, it is clear from the responses to the FOI requests
(Table 2, Appendix 2 below) that the figures from the LAs
include children who have moved away from the area with their
families. Families who move out of an area have no obligation
to inform the LA and their children are not "runaways".
b) Some LAs stated that "missing"
children were retained on the records indefinitely and this procedure
would result in the inclusion of children who were now adults.
Given that the data is demonstrably confused and unreliable it
would be highly improper to draw any conclusions at all from it.
Home educators have expressed concern that time
constraints meant that the legal implications of the registration
and monitoring proposals were not raised when oral evidence was
given to the Select Committee.
HEAS has been advised that the proposals for
universal compulsory registration and monitoring of all home educated
children would require changes to be made to primary legislation;
further, the proposals constitute an infringement of a significant
number of the rights that are accorded to young people by the
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. While it is accepted
that major concerns for a vulnerable child's welfare would allow
for these rights to be suspended the same could not be said in
the majority of cases where there is no cause for concern at all.
Indeed, a civil servant who was conducting one of the recent DCSF
investigations into home education observed in a meeting with
HEAS that he did not think that ministers were considering the
imposition of compulsory visits, adding that under privacy and
human rights legislation he thought that this was unlikely to
be possible even if they wished to do so.
Monitoring all home educating families by mandatory
home visit represents an arbitrary intrusion into the private
life of each home educated child and his/her family. If there
is no evidence of any problems this is not a proportionate response
to a family's desire to make private arrangements for the education
of their children. To judge that children might be at risk in
their own homes simply by virtue of the fact that they are not
in school would violate their rights under Article 16 of
the UNCRC which states that:
No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful
interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence,
nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation. The
child has the right to the protection of the law against such
interference or attacks.
Article 12 of the UNCRC allows the child
the right to be heard. This carries within it the right to remain
silent. Enforced inspection with an automatic right of access
to the child is in complete contradiction to Article 12:
States Parties shall assure to the child who
is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express
those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views
of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age
and maturity of the child.
Article 9 governs the child's right not
to be separated from his or her parents. If local authority officers
were empowered to insist on interviewing the child alone without
any prior independent scrutiny of their reasons for so doing there
would be a breach of Article 9:
States Parties shall ensure that a child shall
not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except
when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine,
in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation
is necessary for the best interests of the child. Such determination
may be necessary in a particular case such as one involving abuse
or neglect of the child by the parents, or one where the parents
are living separately and a decision must be made as to the child's
place of residence.
The Home Education Review does not specify any
procedure for appeal against this arbitrary interference. Such
a power should not be given to local authority officials to use
as they see fit; abuses would be bound to occur when over-zealous
officials believe that they are acting in the child's interests.
Under current legislation officers of the local authority are
able to insist on seeing the child if there are significant concerns
for the child's safety and welfare, so there is no need for the
LAs to seek further powers.
Compulsory monitoring of home education would
be contrary to the child's right to freedom of association as
enshrined in Article 15:
"States Parties recognize the rights of
the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful
assembly. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these
rights other than those imposed in conformity with the law and
which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of
national security or public safety, public order (ordre public),
the protection of public health or morals or the protection of
the rights and freedoms of others."
Children would be forced to associate with local
authority officers against their will although neither of the
two grounds for restricting their freedom of association given
in Article 15 would apply. Given that families whose integrity
is unquestioned would still be forced to submit to compulsory
inspection and monitoring, this would result in a breach of Article
15 on every occasion.
Compulsory registration and monitoring would,
in the majority of cases, override Article 3 of the UNCRC
In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken
by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law,
administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests
of the child shall be a primary consideration.
Given that all the above rights of the child
would have been violated it would be difficult to argue that compulsory
monitoring could possibly be in the best interests of the child.
It could also be argued that many children are educated at home
because they have been failed by the same bureaucracy that is
now seeking to invade their privacy, therefore it could not possibly
be in their best interests to seek to drive them back into the
Finally it should be noted that Article 5 of
the UNCRC states:
States Parties shall respect the responsibilities,
rights and duties of parents
to provide, in a manner consistent
with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction
and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized
in the present Convention.
It would not be possible for parents to fulfil
their responsibility to guide their children in the exercise of
their rights if they are prevented from being present while local
authority representatives interview their children.
Finally I would like to draw the attention of
the Select Committee to a most crucial issue which has not been
fully explored: what is the extent of the duty which is given
to the directors of children's services by the current legislation?
In their oral evidence to the Select Committee
both Mr Badman (on Monday 12 October, Q2) and Peter Traves
(on Wednesday 14 October, Q113) expressed the opinion that
directors of children's services are personally responsible for
ensuring the welfare of all children in their local authority
Nowhere in any of the legislation is this level
of accountability given to directors of children's services or
to any other holder of public office. The legislation governing
the responsibilities of Directors of Children's Services is section
18 of the Children Act 2004. This legislation unites the
functions of education, health and social services, insofar as
they relate to children, under the direction of this individual
but it does not put all children in the care of that individual.
The legislation does not and cannot make this
person individually responsible for the safety, education and
wellbeing of each and every child in the area. This responsibility
belongs to the parent of every child. Both Mr Badman and Mr Traves
seem to have overstated their responsibilities; they are accountable
for the actions of their staff and not for the actions of the
citizens for whom their staff are providing a public service.
It is a matter of grave concern to me and to
Home Education Advisory Service that the entire review of elective
home education and its recommendations are based on a false premise:
namely, that the directors of children's services and their staff
have a specific and personal responsibility in law towards each
individual child to guarantee that they are safe and well. The
relevant sections of the Children Act 1989, the Education Act
2002, the Children Act 2004 and the Education and Inspections
Act 2006 all require general arrangements to be made with
a view to promoting the safety and welfare of children. It was
never the intention of the law to impose duties on individuals
that are impossible to carry out.
At a time when we hear that court hearings for
care applications are taking 14 months and when care applications
have risen by 47%, HEAS wishes to make a plea to the Select Committee
for the restoration of common sense in the present investigation
of home education. Mr Badman saysand I agree with himthat
the great majority of home educated children give no cause for
concern, but that a small proportion do: it would make a real
difference if the public funds required for the implementation
of his recommendations were instead to be targeted directly at
the children who are known to be in need.